The Biden administration signaled Tuesday that it will develop a proposed rule to establish a maximum nicotine level in cigarettes and other tobacco products that will essentially lower the amount of nicotine in products available in the US. It is a step that no other administration has taken before and is one public health experts say would be transformative if enacted.
“This is the first time there’s ever been a serious discussion with a commitment from the highest levels of government to tackle tobacco in a way that is transformative,” said Matthew Myers, the president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “It will transform public health in the United States and literally do more to reduce cancer, cardiovascular disease and respiratory disease than any other set of actions the government could take.
The new initiative was released as a part of what is called the administration’s “unified agenda.” Released twice a year, this is a set of planned federal regulatory actions.
The rule says that the effort to lower nicotine in tobacco products would reduce people’s addiction to smoking and give people a better shot at quitting. Reducing the amount of nicotine in these products would also likely prevent people from starting smoking.
“Addiction to nicotine in combusted products is the main driver of sustained use of these products. In fact, more than half of adult cigarette smokers make a serious quit attempt each year (quitting for at least a day), but most do not succeed due to the addictive nature of cigarettes. Such a product standard, if proposed and then finalized after a thorough process, would make those products minimally- or non-addictive,” the US Food and Drug Administration said in a statement Tuesday.
“Nicotine is powerfully addictive,” FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf said in the statement. “Lowering nicotine levels to minimally addictive or non-addictive levels would decrease the likelihood that future generations of young people become addicted to cigarettes and help more currently addicted smokers to quit.”
Nicotine is the chemical in tobacco products that is highly addictive. The chemical can change the way the brain works, making people crave more of it, according to the FDA.
Studies show that when the nicotine content of cigarettes is reduced, people don’t seem to smoke more to compensate for the missing nicotine. The lower nicotine level cigarettes also seem to be effective in alleviating withdrawal, studies show.